Another argument presented against the concept of infallibility of prophets is the incidence of hazrat Younus (a.s) who, it is argued, left his nation without Allah’s permission and resultantly he was engulfed by a fish as a punishment. Let us analyze this incidence in the light of Quranic verses.
The relevant Quranic verses are quoted in the following:
“So wait with patience for the Command of thy Lord, and be not like the Companion of the Fish,- when he cried out in agony” (al-qalam-48).
“And [mention] the man of the fish, when he went off in anger and thought that We would not decree [anything] upon him. And he called out within the darknesses, "There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers”(al-anbiyaa-87).
“So We responded to him and saved him from the anguish. And thus do We save the believers” (al-anbiyaa-88).
Before interpreting the above mentioned Quranic verses, it would be pertinent to understand that prophets are tried by Allah more than their nations are tried. Prophets are also tried, like common humans, in their emotions. We have seen in my article “Accountability of Emotions/traits/ ‘shaakilah’’ that actually emotions/traits are the basic tool through which a person is judged by Allah in this worldly life. These human emotions/traits are neither good nor bad in their essence; it is the human choice of the situations, and kind and degree/ magnitude of these emotions/traits to manifest in those situations, which makes a human deed good or bad. A human deed based on each kind of emotions/traits (e.g. love or hate, anger or lack of anger, lust or lack of lust, courage or cowardliness etc) may be either good or bad, depending upon the situation chosen and the degree/magnitude of emotion to display in such situation. For instance lack of anger shown in a situation which requires anger to be shown would be a bad act; similarly showing anger in a situation which requires lack of anger to be shown would be a bad act. Similarly lesser degree of charity shown in a situation which requires greater degree of charity to be displayed would be a bad act; similarly greater degree of charity in a situation which requires lesser degree of charity to be shown would be a bad deed. (e.g. a Muslim cannot bequeath more than one third of his property through his will). Every human being has to attain a minimum required standard of success in respect of each and every emotion he has been bestowed upon. To attain lesser than that standard is a sin; but to attain higher than the required standard is not obligatory to humans. For instance in case of giving away wealth, the minimum required standard is to give away 2.5% of his wealth as ‘zakat’; but to give away more than 2.5% is not obligatory to any person. However more percentage of his wealth a person gives away, the higher spiritual level he attains. The same is the case with display of emotions. To attain lesser than required standard of success is a sin; but to attain higher than the required standard is not obligatory to humans. However the greater than the required standard a person achieves, the higher spiritual level he attains.
Now we turn to the interpretation of above mentioned verses. It may be appreciated that nowhere in Quran has been mentioned that Younus (a.s) was engulfed by the fish as a punishment for some mistake or wrong. The above quoted verses state that he (a.s) got away from his people when he (a.s) was in agony and that he (a.s) was in agony when he (a.s) cried to Allah (for punishment of his people). To leave a nation on whom Allah’s wrath was about to come was no wrong act or mistake with intent. Many prophets have done so. Similarly to cry to Allah in agony for punishment of his people is by no standard a wrong act or a mistake with intent. We know that many prophets including Noah (a.s) have done so. But the agony Younus (a.s) showed was made a trial for him by Allah to grant him higher spiritual level; this trial was unexpected for Younus (a.s). “And [mention] the man of the fish, when he went off in anger and thought that We would not decree [anything] upon him…..”. He (a.s) was engulfed by the fish in whose belly he (a.s) learned to control his agony much beyond the required standard. After Younus (a.s) was successful in his trial, he (a.s) was made free from showing agony in a situation in which he (a.s) previously had shown that; this is what has been mentioned in the verse that “so We responded to him and saved him from the anguish. And thus do We save the believers” (al-anbiyaa-88).
Therefore Younus (a.s) had committed no wrong or mistake with intent which prophets are not likely to commit; Younus’s (a.s) act was not a wrong act or mistake with intent, when this act was commissioned. As mentioned already, mistake with intent is the act which is false/wrong at the time of commission whether or not the fallacy/wrongness of the act is known to the actor, Younus’s (a.s) act was no mistake with intent because it was not false/wrong at the time it was commissioned. Similarly this act was not wrong likely to be compensated for. As mentioned in part (2) wrong is such mistake which is done knowing the fallacy of the act committed, wrong is the next stage of mistake. This incidence was only a trial for Younus (a.s) through which he (a.s) passed successfully to attain higher spiritual level. It was a trial just like one hazrat Ayub (a.s) was passed through (continued).